Dark God’s Gambit
Two empires waged an epic war for four hundred years. They raised mighty armies, one wild, savage, filled with monsters, both human and those from the Dark World. The other, fought with god-forged armor and brilliant precision. They were gifted with magic by their Cold Gods, inhuman and merciless. Their battles destroyed everything they touched, leaving the world a shell. Their mighty armies devastated, only tiny remnants remained. But their gods were not satisfied with this. Their magics bound together tightly by the continued warfare, one side would be forced to destroy the other to release magic back to the world. Each side sought to prepare a final champion, a representative who would end the war, by destroying the other.
The druid finished his invocation, his voice croaking with the day long effort. The rift opened and the stench of the Dark Realm came forth. He despised his master for assigning him this task. There were plenty of lesser acolytes who could have done this. His master had begun to suspect his loyalty, so he tied him up here with the summoning knowing he would have to be here all day.
The troll shambled forth, covered with blue sigils, a giant easily twelve hands high with legs as wide as a man’s chest. Its massive chest was as huge as the great oaks of the Forbidden Forests. It skin was dark green with hard armor plates on its arms, chest legs and back. Its head was covered in sharp spiked ridges that covered everything but its neck. It steamed and smoked, covered with poisonous ichor caused by the transition boundary between worlds. A sticky oil, it would dissipate in a few days. During that time, even its touch was death.
There were several grenchen with it, smaller, less intelligent cousins who made up for their lack of size with an enthusiasm for combat. Their greenish-brown skin was also scaled and rigid. Their over-sized heads had low brow ridges that covered their eyes. Each was armed with a spiked stone club, carried casually over their shoulders.
“We’s here. Getting paid is we?” The grenchen language skills were atrocious, they always were. Trolls hardly ever spoke. Grenchen seemed to interpret for them.
“Over there.” He pointed at the cages. Roman peasants huddled in the darkness. “Eat until your hearts content. Then head south until you reach the village.
The screams were tortured and brief. The crunching of the bones was far worse than the screams. The druid turns away and begins to head north.
“Pay not finished.”
“What are you talking about creature, my master told me you wanted the blood and souls of two score. You’ve had them, now be about your business.”
The grenchen hefted their clubs and hurled them, with great force and malice, at the druid. Without effort, he erected a mage-shield by waving his hand. Blood magic was all that was left to the druids of Gaul, but he had contented himself with a sweet young thing earlier in the evening. She had blood enough for two. Contempt was written in his sneer. Five clubs struck the shield and rebounded. The sixth struck the druid square in the face, killing him instantly. The grenchen boss walked over to his club and removed the garland around the head.
“Price be two score and one.” Said the boss grenchen picking up his large wooden club. Dark Master kept word, holly plant crossed shield as promised. “Its been long time since we last had druid.”
* * *
Centurion Vedius Calvus blinked the blood from his eyes. The troll and his minions had destroyed the village and now his men were down as well. They had wounded it but that only lent to its fury. Seeing the centurion rise to his feet, the troll lumbered toward him, roaring. He dropped his broken shield and tightened his grip on his gladius, its ichor-slicked pommel hot in his hand. He nodded in supplication.”Mars, I am ready.”
With Vedius having killed its lesser minions, the creature approached warily. With its immense size and long arms, it had a decided reach advantage and knew it. It crouched, waving its hands trying to draw him into combat. Vedius stood and circled around the creature, beating back its iron-like claws as it tried to find an opening. It was fast despite its size. His ripostes only bounced off bony ridges on its forearms with a weak clang. The village was silent, their grunts of exertion and quickly shuffling feet were the only sounds now. Vedius was bleeding badly and knew he did not have much time. Their exchanges were more vigorous as the creature sensed his weakening, and grew more bold.
Without a shield, he parried with his with his gladius, a poor tool for that purpose. The blade rang with the force of the blows. The creature surged forward, striking him hard, the blow numbing his arm. The force of it caused him to stumble and the troll slammed into him. It followed through with its right claw, ripping through his defending bracer, and knocking it off of the centurion’s arm. Vedius was knocked off his feet and landed heavily on his back.
Stunned, his armor, hot and heavy holds him down as the booming steps of the overconfident troll shake the ground. Its shadow loomed over him as it reached for him. Its huge hand got a vice-like grip, pressing him into the ground. The centurion wakes, jarred back to reality, strikes out snake-like, hitting the troll in its leg as he is lifted from the ground. Its howl of agony echoed throughout the village. Vedius, still reeling from its grip on his neck, tightens his muscles as the troll lunges forward to bite the centurion on his shoulder. Vedius shouts “adsum, qui feci” and drives his sword through the neck of the troll. Its blood gushes skyward and covers Vedius as it toppled over onto him, crushing the last of the air from his lungs.
When the rest of his men found him hours later, he was close to death. They built a fire, burned the dead and wait for him to die. They burned the dead with their homes, keeping only what they needed to wait for the Centurion to pass into the next life. He burned with fever but did not die.
In the spirit world between worlds, the Centurion stood naked before Mars, with his fist raised. “Let me die, Lord Mars. I have served. My time is done. You promised me my freedom.”
“I lied. You pledged yourself to me. I tell you when to die.” Mars waved his hand as he dispelled the soul of his champion back to his body. The Dark Gods would be coming soon. His champion would need his rest in the days ahead. He was still not ready.
Vedius woke, weak as a kitten and mad as hell. His men rejoiced, their numbers already too small, any victory was a good one. Soon after, they broke camp and returned home, confident of their victory and their belief in the end of the War.
Back at the burning village, the smoldering bones of the troll drew upon the sacrifice of its grenchen, the sinew and souls of the villagers and began to be rebuilt, forged in blood and sacrifice. The creature had been altered, tortured, it’s very bones etched with the final strength of the Dark Gods. As its bones were knit back together, they merged with the stone and the bronze of the armors left here.
The bronze flowed into the sigils filling them with the forces of the god-forged weapons, adding their strength to its infernal own. Its skeleton rose from the ashes, covered in fiery sigils. Now a golem, it was beyond Death, and proof against magic, as was foretold. With their magics bound, the Cold Gods would have no chance. Its fiery steps headed south toward their mountain stronghold, Olympus.
Thus ended the First Age.
Dark God’s Gambit ©Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved
About the Artist: The piece was a commission and is called Bahamutas. It was created by Gerald Ramos Fernadez, known as *rhardo by his fans on deviantART. An accomplished artist in the Philippines, he creates superheroes on contract. His work features bold colors, excellent detail and a wide array of subject matter. He is one of my favs on deviantART.